AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

31 October 2018

Sincerity.


Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.

Linus

Receive.


LAKE WAKE DIRGE

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past,
Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny-muir thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If hosen and shoon thou ne'er gav'st nane
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Whinny-muir whence thou may'st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o' Dread thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Brig o' Dread whence thou may'st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gav'st meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If meat or drink thou ne'er gav'st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

Anonymous

ACϟDC, "Hell's Bells"

Corned.


It was a crisp Saturday night in late-October. I was probably seven or eight. My brother and I were sitting on the couch watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” for the zillionth time.

And then we heard it.

To our stunned ears, it seemed as though my parents’ bay window, situated directly behind us, had shattered to pieces. But, mysteriously, it was still there, in tact.

Our tiny nervous systems were not prepared for this sonic assault, especially because it didn’t make sense. We stared in disbelief at the window for a minute, waiting for it to spill its shards. When we got enough courage to get up and peer out the front door, we saw the lanky silhouettes of teenagers running away into the dark of the trees. Piles of dried out corn kernels were scattered all over the porch like empty shells.  We had been corned.

CONNECT ... don't miss the sound file.

Louis Armstrong, "Skeleton in the Closet"

Laughing.


I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.

Herman Melville, from Moby-Dick

CONNECT

Suddenly.


It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state. There wasn't so much wilderness around you couldn't see the town. But on the other hand there wasn't so much town you couldn't see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of...

Boys.

And it was the afternoon of Halloween.

And all the houses shut against a cool wind.

And the town was full of cold sunlight.

But suddenly, the day was gone.
Night came out from under each tree and spread.

Ray Bradbury, from The Halloween Tree

Ghosts.

Happy birthday, Keats.

Hilton, John Keats, 1823


John Keats was born on this day in 1795.

LINES on the MERMAID TAVERN

Souls of Poets dead and gone, 
What Elysium have ye known, 
Happy field or mossy cavern, 
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern? 
Have ye tippled drink more fine 
Than mine host's Canary wine? 
Or are fruits of Paradise 
Sweeter than those dainty pies 
Of venison? O generous food! 
Drest as though bold Robin Hood 
Would, with his maid Marian, 
Sup and bowse from horn and can. 

I have heard that on a day 
Mine host's sign-board flew away, 
Nobody knew whither, till 
An astrologer's old quill 
To a sheepskin gave the story, 
Said he saw you in your glory, 
Underneath a new old sign 
Sipping beverage divine, 
And pledging with contented smack 
The Mermaid in the Zodiac. 

Souls of Poets dead and gone, 
What Elysium have ye known, 
Happy field or mossy cavern, 
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern? 

John Keats

Beloved.


Imagine: A used paperback of Jim Harrison’s Selected and New Poems sitting zazen on a shelf inside Moe’s Books, the legendary bookstore in Berkeley, California. Meanwhile, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, inside a modest cabin near Grand Marais, a one-eyed poet opens his notebook and writes:

It is not so much that I got 
there from here, which is everyone’s 
story: but the shape 
of the voyage, how it pushed 
outward in every direction 
until it stopped

The poet looks out the window toward the Sucker River and decides it’s time to brave the weather and visit the Dunes Saloon for a drink and some whitefish. At that exact moment: the paperback copy of Selected and New Poems is pulled from the shelf by a young man who has never owned a book of poems.

I have carried that book with me for over thirty years. It is a sacred text, held together with duct tape, stained, creased, bent, ripped, and teeming with handwritten notes and markings. This beat-up paperback, which would be hard to sell for fifty cents at a rummage sale, is one of my most beloved objects on planet Earth. It is the copy I used as a reference guide when I worked with Jim Harrison in the late 1990s to compile the manuscript for his collected poems, Shape of the Journey. On the inside front cover is a to-do list that begins, “Write John Harrison about other poems not published in books.”

CONNECT

Happy birthday, Vermeer.

Vermeer, The Geographer, 1669


Johannes Vermeer was born on this day in 1632.

Master of Light ...

Ssssssssstones, "Saint of Me"

... all the simple pleasures of doing somethin' wrong.

Prowled.


The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats. Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows' Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.

Ray Bradbury, from The Halloween Tree

Moron.


If you’re listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you’re a bigger moron than they are.

Alice Cooper 

Thank you, hopeleslie.

Turned.


Once I said to a scarecrow, “You must be tired of standing in this
lonely field.”

And he said, “The joy of scaring is a deep and lasting one, and I
never tire of it.”

Said I, after a minute of thought, “It is true; for I too have
known that joy.”

Said he, “Only those who are stuffed with straw can know it.”

Then I left him, not knowing whether he had complimented or belittled me.

A year passed, during which the scarecrow turned philosopher.

And when I passed by him again I saw two crows building a nest
under his hat.

Khalil Gibran

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Excellent.

An excellent candy bar ...

Tartini, Violin Sonata in G minor, Bg.5, "Devil's Trill"

Anne-Sophie Mutter performs, with Lambert Orkis accompanying ...

Time.


The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
     And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
     And the harpies of upper air,
     That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
     Never shone in the sunset’s gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
     Where the rivers of madness stream
     Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves thro’ the rows of sheaves
     In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
     And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
     For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
     That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral pow’r
     Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne
     And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
     That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
     Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw
     To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
     The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
     Shall some day be with the rest,
     And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
     And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
     Of horror and death are penn’d,
     For the hounds of Time to rend.

H.P. Lovecraft

Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

Karl Richter performs ...

Fond.

Sloane, The Autumn of a Barn, 1973



When years have left these walls and siding gray
And wind has dug its nails into the piney board
Around this relic chants the raucous jay
His lonely notes above the prairie sward.
Then, in your heart of hearts, what may befall
Remembering days with byre in the barnyard red,
When Charlie sawed his fiddle, gave the call,
Flesh soft, my hand, her glance and toss of head.
Our striplings, grown, then lend the dance anew,
Within the loft, they shone in bright array,
fresh partners laughed, grasped hands on cue,
Each one, each youth, there found its glorious day.
         So, hailing what we leave, come, toll the bell,
         And bid the barn, the past, a fond farewell. 

Robert Tallant Loudon

Roam.


Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who loved playing tricks on anyone and everyone. One dark, Halloween night, Jack ran into the Devil himself in a local public house. Jack tricked the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil quickly turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack immediately snatched the coin and deposited it into his pocket, next to a silver cross that he was carrying. Thus, the Devil could not change himself back and Jack refused to allow the Devil to go free until the Devil had promised not to claim Jack's soul for ten years.
The Devil agreed, and ten years later Jack again came across the Devil while out walking on a country road. The Devil tried collecting what he was due, but Jack thinking quickly, said, "I'll go, but before I do, will you get me an apple from that tree?"

The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped up into the tree to retrieve an apple. As soon as he did, Jack placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, thus trapping the Devil once again. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he finally died. Seeing no way around his predicament, the Devil grudgingly agreed.


When Stingy Jack eventually passed away several years later, he went to the Gates of Heaven, but was refused entrance because of his life of drinking and because he had been so tight-fisted and deceitful. So, Jack then went down to Hell to see the Devil and find out whether it were possible to gain entrance into the depths of Hell, but the Devil kept the promise that had been made to Jack years earlier, and would not let him enter.


"But where can I go?" asked Jack.


"Back to where you came from!" replied the Devil.


The way back was windy and very dark. Stingy Jack pleaded with the Devil to at least provide him with a light to help find his way. The Devil, as a final gesture, tossed Jack an ember straight from the fires of Hell. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip...one of Jack's favorite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. From that day forward, Stingy Jack has been doomed to roam the earth without a resting place and with only his lit turnip to light the way in the darkness.


CONNECT

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

28 October 2018

Dream-drapery.


Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,—
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields.

Henry David Thoreau

Incompletion.

Wood.

Goldsworthy, Wood Room, 2007

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

I have sworn, upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against drones.

Dog.

Happy birthday, Waugh.


Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days - such as that day - when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour.

Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Thank you, Grandma Chenoweth.

Happy birthday, Escoffier.


Georges Auguste Escoffier was born on this day in 1846.

The workman mindful of success, therefore, will naturally direct his attention to the faultless preparation of his stock, and in order to achieve this result, he will find it necessary not merely to make use of the freshest and finest goods, but also to exercise the most scrupulous care in their preparation, for, in cooking, care is half the battle.

Georges Auguste Escoffier

Abel, "Arpeggiata"

Jordi Savall performs ...

Happy birthday, Erasmus.

Holbein, the Younger, Erasmus in Rotterdam, 1523


Erasmus was born on this day in 1466.

I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults.

Erasmus

27 October 2018

Marvelous.


Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.

Washington Irving, from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Dr. Syn.

General Film Distributors 1937 adaptation of Doctor Syn ...


Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"

Untranslatable.


There is an hour of the afternoon when the plain is on the verge of saying something. It never says, or perhaps it says it infinitely, or perhaps we do not understand it, or we understand it and it is untranslatable as music.

Jorge Luis Borges

Nobility.


Well, I am going to exercise my prerogative of roaring and show you how fares nobility. Watch me.

Jack London

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "Swingin'"

... like Glenn Miller.



It's sandwich time.

Understanding.


Trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights. Allow your verdicts their own quiet untroubled development which like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated. Everything must be carried to term before it is born. To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Excellent.

An excellent herring ...


Thank You, Jessica.

Pumpkins.

Larsson, October (The Pumpkins), 1883

Treehouse.

Adventures.

BBC Radio's adaptation of Russell Thorndike's The Adventures of Dr. Syn ...

Excellent.

An excellent album ..

Trusteeship.


We do not merely study the past: we inherit it, and inheritance brings with it not only the rights of ownership, but the duties of trusteeship. Things fought for & died for should not be idly squandered. For they are the property of others, who are not yet born.

Roger Scruton 

Thank you, Durham WASP.

26 October 2018

Greta Van Fleet, "Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)"

Magnificent.

I ain’t never seen ’em, but my common sense tells me the Andes is foothills, and the Alps is for children to climb! Keep good care of your hair! These here is God’s finest scupturings! And there ain’t no laws for the brave ones! And there ain’t no asylums for the crazy ones! And there ain’t no churches, except for this right here! And there ain’t no priests excepting the birds. By God, I are a mountain man, and I’ll live ’til an arrow or a bullet finds me. And then I’ll leave my bones on this great map of the magnificent ...

Del Gue

The trailer for Jeremiah Johnson ...

Importance.

Jocko Willink Jordan Peterson discuss the importance of having thick skin ...

Waylon Jennings, "Trouble Man"

WOO-HOO!  HAPPY FRIDAY!



Rest in Peace, Tony Joe White.

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Seeing.

Herrick, Seeing the Riches of London, n/d

Scented.

Tingley, The Rendez-Vous, 1903


Wanderer in the black wind; quietly the dry reeds whisper
In the stillness of the moor. In the gray sky
A flock of wild birds follows;
Slanting over gloomy waters.

Turmoil. In decayed hut
The spirit of putrescence flutters with black wings.
Crippled birches in the autumn wind.

Evening in deserted tavern. The way home is scented all around
By the soft gloom of grazing herds;
Apparition of the night; toads plunge from brown waters.

Georg Trakl

Private.


I feel with some passion that what we truly are is private, and almost infinitely complex, and ambiguous, and both external and internal, and double- or triple- or multiply-natured, and largely mysterious even to ourselves; and furthermore that what we are is only part of us, because identity, unlike “identity”, must include what we do. And I think that to find oneself and every aspect of this complexity reduced in the public mind to one property that apparently subsumes all the rest is to be the victim of a piece of extraordinary intellectual vulgarity.

Philip Pullman

Happy birthday, Scarlatti.

Velasco, Domenico Scarlatti, 1738


Domenico Scarlatti was born on this day in 1685.

The Henderson-Kolk Duo perform the Sonata in G minor, K.12/L.489

Rejoice.

I rejoice over the influence of the people over their elected leaders since by and large I think they show more wisdom than their leaders or than intellectuals ...



Thank you, Durham WASP.

25 October 2018

ACϟDC, "Problem Child"

Love.

van Gogh, Self-portrait, 1887


Since the beginning of this love I have felt that unless I gave myself up to it entirely, without any restriction, with all my heart, there was no chance for me whatever, and even so my chance is slight. But what is it to me whether my chance is slight or great? I mean, must I consider this when I love? No, no reckoning; one loves because one loves. Then we keep our heads clear, and do not cloud our minds, nor do we hide our feelings, nor smother the fire and light, but simply say: Thank God, I love.

Do you know what frees one from this captivity? It is every deep serious affection. Being friends, being brothers, love, these open the prison by supreme power, by some magic force. Where sympathy is renewed, life is restored.

Love a friend, love a wife, something, whatever you like, but one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and one must always try to know deeper, better, and more.

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done!

The best way to know God is to love many things.

Vincent van Gogh

Do.


"It's poor judgment," said Grandpa, "to call anything by a name. We don't know what a hobgoblin or a vampire or a troll is. Could be lots of things. You can't heave them into categories with labels and say they'll act one way or another. That'd be silly. They're people. People who do things. Yes, that's the way to put it. People who do things.” 

Ray Bradbury, from The Man Upstairs

Happy birthday, Strauss.


Johann Strauss, Jr. was born on this day in 1825.

Philippe Jordan leads the Vienna Symphony in "Artist's Life" ...


Far.

Chatham, Sunrise, 2001


The GOLDEN WINDOW

By accident my heart lifted with a rush.
Gone for weeks, finally home on a darkish day
of blustery wind, napped, waking in a few minutes
and the sun had come clean and crept around the house,
this light from one of trillions of stars
falling through the window skeined
by the willow’s greenish bright yellow leaves
so that my half-asleep head opened wide
for the first time in many months, a cold sunstroke,
so yellow-gold, so gold-yellow, yellow-gold,
this eye beyond age bathed in yellow light.

* * *

Seventy days on the river with a confusion between
river turbulence and human tribulation. We are here
to be curious not consoled. The gift of the gods
is consciousness not my forlorn bleating prayers
for equilibrium, the self dog-paddling in circles
on its own alga-lidded pond. Emily Walter wrote:
“We are given rivers so we know our hearts
can break, but still keep us breathing.”

* * *

When you run through the woods blindfolded
you’re liable to collide with trees, I thought
one hot afternoon on the river. You can’t drown yourself
if you swim well. We saw some plovers
and then a few yellow legs with their peculiar cries,
and I remembered a very cold, windy September day
with Matthiessen and Danny when the birds lifted
me far out of myself. It was so cold and blustery the avian
world descended into the river valley and while fishing
we saw a golden eagle, two immature and two adult
bald eagles, two prairie falcons, two peregrines, Cooper’s
hawks, two Swainson’s, a sharp-shinned,
a rough-legged, a harrier, five turkey vultures,
three ospreys, and also saw buffleheads, widgeon,
teal, mallards, morning doves, kingfishers,
ring-billed gulls, killdeer, spotted plovers,
sandpipers and sandhill cranes.
They also saw us. If a peregrine sees fifty times better
than we, what do we look like to them?
 Unanswerable.

* * *

Nearing seventy there is a tinge of the usually
unseen miraculous when you wake up alive
from a night’s sleep or a nap. We always rise in the terrifying
posture of the living. Some days the river is incomprehensible.
No, not the posture, but that a terrifying beauty
is born within us. I think of the 20-acre thicket
my mother planted after the deaths 40 years ago,
the thicket now nearly impenetrable as its own beauty.
Across the small pond the green heron looked at me quizzically—
who is this? I said I wasn’t sure at that moment
wondering if the green heron could be Mother.

* * *

Now back in the Absarokas I’m awake
to these diffuse corridors of light. The grizzlies
have buried themselves below that light cast down
across the mountain meadow, following a canyon
to the valley floor where the rattlesnakes will also sleep
until mid-April. Meanwhile we’ll travel toward the border
with the birds. The moon is swollen tonight
and the mountain this summer I saw bathed
in a thunderstorm now bathes itself in a mist of snow.

* * *

Rushing, turbulent water and light, convinced by animals
and rivers that nature only leads us to herself,
so openly female through the window of my single eye.
For half a year my alphabet blinded me to beauty,
forgetting my nature which came from the boy lost
comfortably in the woods, how and why he suspected home,
this overmade world where old paths are submerged
in metal and cement.

* * *

This morning in the first clear sunlight making its way
over the mountains, the earth covered with crunchy frost,
I walked the dogs past Weber’s sheep pasture
where a ram was covering a ewe who continued eating,
a wise and experienced woman. I headed due west
up the slope toward Antelope Butte in the delicious
cold still air, turning at the irrigation ditch hearing
the staccato howl of sandhill cranes behind me,
a couple of hundred rising a mile away from Cargill’s
alfalfa, floating up into the white mist rising
from the frost, and moving north in what I judge
is the wrong direction for this weather. Birds make mistakes,
so many dying against windows and phone wires.
I continued west toward the snake den to try to catch
the spirit of the place when it’s asleep, the sheer otherness
of hundreds of rattlesnakes sleeping in a big ball
deep in the rocky earth beneath my feet. The dogs,
having been snake trained, are frightened of this place.
So am I. So much protective malevolence. I fled.
Back home in the studio, a man-made wonder. We planted
a chokecherry tree near the window and now through cream-
colored blinds the precise silhouette of the bare branches,
gently but firmly lifting my head, a Chinese screen
that no one made which I accept from the nature of light.

* * *

I think of Mother’s thicket as her bird garden.
How obsessed she was with these creatures. When I told
her a schizophrenic in Kentucky wrote, “Birds are holes
in heaven through which a man must pass,” her eyes teared.
She lost husband and daughter to the violence of the road
and I see their spirits in the bird garden. On our last night
a few years ago she asked me, “Are we the same species as God?”
At eighty-five she was angry that the New Testament wasn’t fair
to women and then she said, “During the Great Depression
we had plenty to eat,” meaning at the farmhouse,
barn and chicken coop a hundred yards to the north
that are no longer there, disappeared with the inhabitants.
The child is also the mother of the man.

* * *

In the U.P. in the vast place southeast of the river
I found my way home by following the path
where my shadow was the tallest
which led to the trail which led
to another trail which led to the road home
to the cabin where I wrote to her:
“Found two dead redtail hawks, missing
their breasts, doubtless a goshawk took them
as one nests just north of here a half mile
in a tall hemlock on the bend of the river.”

* * *

With only one eye I’ve learned
to celebrate vision, the eye a painter,
the eye a monstrous fleshy camera
which can’t stop itself in the dark
where it sees its private imagination.
The tiny eye that sees the cosmos overhead.

* * *

Last winter I lost heart between each of seven cities.
Planes never land with the same people who boarded.

* * *

Walking Mary and Zilpha every morning I wonder
how many dogs are bound by regret
because they are captured by our imaginations
and affixed there by our need to have them do
as we wish when their hearts are quite otherwise.

* * *

I hope to define my life, whatever is left,
by migrations, south and north with the birds
and far from the metallic fever of clocks,
the self staring at the clock saying, “I must do this.”
I can’t tell the time on the tongue of the river
in the cool morning air, the smell of the ferment
of greenery, the dust off the canyon’s rock walls,
the swallows swooping above the scent of raw water.

* * *

Maybe we’re not meant to wake up completely.
I’m trying to think of what I can’t remember.
Last week in France I read that the Ainu in Japan
receive messages from the gods through willow trees
so I’m not the only one. I looked down into the garden
of Matignon and wondered at the car trip the week before
where at twilight in Narbonne 27,000 blackbirds swirled
and that night from the window
it was eerie with a slip of the waning moon
off the right shoulder of the Romanesque cathedral
with Venus sparkling shamelessly above the moon,
Venus over whom the church never had any power.
Who sees? Whose eye is this? A day later in Collioure
from the Hermitage among vineyards in the mountains
I could look down steep canyons still slightly green
from the oaks in November to the startling blue of the Mediterranean,
storm-wracked from the mistral’s seventy knot winds,
huge lumpy white caps, their crests looking toward Africa.

* * *

I always feared losing my remaining eye,
my singular window to the world. When closed it sees
the thousands of conscious photos I’ve taken with it,
impressionist rather than crystalline, from a lion’s mouth
in the Serengeti in 1972 to a whale’s eye in the Humboldt current,
the mountain sun gorged with the color of forest
fires followed by a moon orange as a simple orange,
a thousand girls and women I’ve seen but never met,
the countless birds I adopted since losing the eye in 1945
including an albino grouse creamy as that goshawk’s breast
that came within feet of Mother in our back pasture,
the female trogon that appeared when Dalva
decided to die, and the thousands of books out of whose print
vision is created in the mind’s eye, as real as any garden at dawn.

* * *

No rhapsodies today. Home from France
and the cold wind and a foot of snow have destroyed
my golden window, but then the memory
has always been more vivid than the life. The memory
is the not-quite-living museum of our lives.
Sometimes its doors are insufferably wide open
with black stars in a grey sky, and horses
clattering in and out, our dead animals resting here
and there but often willing to come to life again
to greet us, parents and brothers and sisters sit
at the August table laughing while they eat twelve
fresh vegetables from the garden. Rivers, creeks, lakes
over which birds funnel like massive schools of minnows.
In memory the clocks have drowned themselves, leaving
time to the life spans of trees. The world of our lives
comes unbidden as night.

Jim Harrison